Techniques

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Every Singer has their own unique style, sound and tone which is worth studying. Watching and listening to the way a professional singer performs provides an insight into the techniques used, but you could spend years trying to emulate the top vocalists or favourite artist. If you intend to be a "tribute" act or have a natural similarity to an existing artist, studying them will be an essential part of your rehearsal program, but to really benefit from your voice, you should concentrate on developing your own natural vocal abilities and style.

If you listen to a vocal line, you will see how rare it is to hear a "monotone" or one note singer. When you speak, your voice lifts and drops, increases and decreases in volume, this is referred to as 'LIGHT & SHADE' or 'EXPRESSION' and is the key to making an average song into a highly listenable one. So how do you achieve the same effect in your vocal performance?

The answer is to learn about how sounds and shapes are created then integrate this with natural feeling and emotion. Part of a singing teachers job is to provide the student with exercises and techniques plus identify tensions to aid the singer in exploring their own potential and singing in a healthy manner.

This can sound a little intimidating or confusing to the complete beginner, who may not understand the meaning behind the terminology or reason for the exercises used. Vocal Scales, learning to breathe, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, correct diction, phrasing and visualisation are methods that teach the singer about the mechanism of singing.

There are times when singers try too hard to do it right instead of expressing the song. Singing without considering technique or style during a practice session can release tension, resulting in the subconsious use of correct technique, thereby producing a beautiful tone or emotive quality. Technique is just a means to an end that is forever open, it grows, changes and develops as the singer gains experience and confidence in their own ability.

SIMPLE TIPS

The following tips and exercises should be tried once, they are not 'healthy techniques' to be used on a constant basis, just one off ideas aimed at the exploration of how it feels when using mouth shapes and sounds.

Soften your voice to almost a whisper to give it a 'breathy' feel.

Practice a cats 'miaow' and 'growl' sound (no really), try it and use the mouth/sound shape to give yourself a sexy 'growl'.

Experiment with tongue placement, mouth shapes, raising and lowering the larynx when singing a note or phrase.

Visualise the notes hitting the ceiling to get those high notes and the floor to get the low ones.

Here are a few exercises you can practice to help achieve light and shade in your voice.

Use a phrase to practice with - try using - "I want to WHISPER"   "I want to SHOUT",

Begin by speaking the phrase normally, record your efforts and listen to your pronounciation and expression.

Repeat the phrase 'whispering' the first section and 'shouting' the second.

By now you should feel, and hear the way your mouth, throat and breathing create the different sounds.

Now 'SING' the whole phrase normally, be relaxed and natural.

Finally redo the whole exercise 'singing' the phrase.

Try to 'project' your voice forwards and outwards by visualising the note reaching the back of the room.

The tune or notes you use are not important, but taking note of how you sound during the exercise is.

Once you have tried these ideas, you should be able to identify the shape of the mouth and postion of the tongue that helps to create the sound and tone, which if used correctly can be applied to the songs you perform to create different effects to phrases and words. The aim is to discover methods that feel comfortable, sound good and enable the voice to operate at peak efficiency, if a method causes hoarseness or hurts, then it follows that it causes stress to the vocal chords which could be damaging to the voice.

EXPRESSION

This is the term used to explain 'feeling' in your voice.   Putting expression into a song makes it 'come alive' for the listener.

When you read the lyrics of a song, do they come alive for you? Can you relate to the theme or story?  Speak the lyrics aloud, imagine you are talking to a close friend, how would you say the words to them?   If it is a love song or ballad, envisage the person you would like to express those emotions to.

Breathing in the right 'gaps' or 'rests' is important as it helps you to hit the right note and put expression into the performance.

A bright, confident sound in your voice can be achieved by smiling!

This can be applied to any song with a strong emotional theme, the key is to relate to what the songwriter is trying to express and using your natural emotions to enhance the way you perform the song.  Sing it from the heart and you won't go far wrong.

Also Read
Exercises
Tone & Emotion
Vocal Range & Key

Vocal Exercise and Article Links

These are just a small example of the extensive links to online exercises and lessons we have available in the Singers Articles section, which contains complete listings of lessons, exercises or articles available on each site with direct links to the page (when not a framed site) plus answers to pretty much everything a beginner, intermediate, advanced singer or teacher needs to know! (All links open in a new window). Also check out our new Vocal Coaching Videos containing free online singing lessons and voice training.

How to sing Bel Canto 1 **NEW **
The first video on youtube with maestro Bonynge, opera singers Sutherland, Pavarotti and Horne discussing singing and technique.

How to sing Bel Canto 11 **NEW **
The second video on youtube with maestro Bonynge, opera singers Sutherland, Pavarotti and Horne discussing singing and technique.

A Few Facts about Vocal Technique
Article by singer, coach & public speaker Jane Jenkins.

Classical Vocal Technique
from Standing Stones covers classical singing and vibrato related topics in music and singing including 19th century voice teacher Mrs Alverson discusses vibrato.

Damaging Vocal Techniques
Article by voice teacher and maestro David Jones.

Normal Voice Production
Covering Respiration, Phonation and Resonation including effects of aging

Observations on the Technique of Italian Singing
from the 16th Century to the Present Day by Antonella Nigro available in English and Italian. Print off from the book Celebri Ari Antiche (Famous Ancient Arias).

The Meaning of Vocal Technique
Essays on singing from Bruce Bruce Schoonmaker

Method of Learning Overtone Singing
by Tran Quang Hai & Bach Yen. Site includes information on phonation, musical terms about voice, discography, researches, activities and links to related resources. Available in English, French and Vietnamese versions of the site.

Singing Without Technique
Essays on singing from Bruce Bruce Schoonmaker

Technique
Essays on singing from Bruce Bruce Schoonmaker

The Lowered Larynx Technique
Written by JH Anthonisen is a brief outline of the vocal technique taught Mario del Monaco by Arturo Melocchi, a vocal teacher at the Pesaro Conservatory which was later adopted in a modulated form by Franco Corelli.

Traditional Gaelic Singing
Article by Craig Cockburn providing and explainations, hints and examples on rendition and style.

Vocal Chord Video Clips
Dave Stroud's speech level singing site provides clips of male and female vocal chords in action.

Vocal Survival Techniques
For singers who abuse and overuse their voices. Article includes advice and exercises from Rosalie Loeding.